County supervisors approve community gardening plan

Owners of certain vacant or run-down properties in Chula Vista will be able to get tax relief in exchange for growing fruits and vegetables under a plan approved Tuesday by the county board of supervisors.

The city is covered by an urban agriculture incentive zone that allows owners of more than 170 eligible degraded plots to submit plans to turn their properties into community gardens or other agricultural uses. In exchange, landowners pay a lower property tax rate based on the value per acre of irrigated farmland. The program was created by a 2014 state law.

Chula Vista’s plan had to be approved by the Supervisory Board, which approved it unanimously. Supervisors Kristin Gaspar and Bill Horn were absent.

Officials said the program’s goal is to increase green space, build community, educate the public about fresh food production and increase access to fruits and vegetables in areas that lack fresh food.

“It’s a great way to use plots that may not have been developed to their full potential,” said supervisor Greg Cox. “I think that’s something we should see, frankly, in the other 16 cities in San Diego County and the unincorporated area.”

San Diego became the first city in the county to adopt such a program earlier this year. Some 2,000 plots are eligible for the program in this city.

Homeowners must register for the program with the city. Plots must be at least 0.1 acre and no more than three acres and the entire property must be dedicated to agricultural use – no houses or apartments are permitted.

If approved, the owner and the city would enter into a contract for at least five years.

If all eligible property owners participated, the city and county would lose $345,971 a year in property tax revenue, according to a staff report.

—City News Service